Memory Power (Vaetchanan)
Memory is the cabinet of the imagination, the treasury of reason, the registry of conscience, and, the council chamber of thought. -Giambattista Basile
Moses, telling the nation of Israel about the primacy of the Torah that was bestowed upon them, adds an additional warning:
“But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live.”
The Bat Ayin on the verse of Deuteronomy 4:9 delves into the spiritual dimensions of forgetfulness. He explains that our ability to remember the Torah is directly correlated to our spiritual efforts. He goes even further and states that remembering is an act of attaching oneself to what is holy, while forgetfulness is a function of arrogance and a distancing from God.
The Talmud, in Tractate Sotah 5a, in its discussion of the extreme dangers of arrogance, states that a Torah Scholar is permitted to have one-eighth of one-eighth of arrogance, namely, no more than one sixty-fourth of arrogance. However, if a person allows themselves even a fraction more arrogance, one sixty-third, then one is in trouble. Sixty-three in Hebrew letters spells the word “Gaas” which means arrogance. And once a person falls into arrogance, even though they are learned Torah scholars, they will forget their learning, they will be unable to access not only deeper levels of Torah, but they will become blind even to plain, obvious, revealed Torah. They will forget the divine content.
The Bat Ayin points out that later the Torah warns against excessive eating which also leads to forgetfulness. He quotes the Chapter of our Fathers (Pirkei Avot) that instructs one who wants to acquire Torah to reduce their eating, their sleeping, and in general, their worldly affairs. Being absorbed in the material pleasures of the world divert and sidetrack a person from God, from His Torah, and causes one to forget what they’ve already learned. Holding on to one’s learning is a constant effort, not only in reviewing one’s material, but avoiding the pitfalls of arrogance and worldly pleasures.
May we actively remember our Torah.
To World Drowning Prevention Day. Let’s be careful and attentive.